Vacation season is here! Time to pack! But will you remember everything you need? And will you remember to bring it back when it's time to go home?
If you travel as often as I do, you learn how to pack and unpack so that you never lose anything or leave anything behind. For years I have traveled to visit my son and his family no matter where he is stationed (excluding his four tours in Iraq and his time in Thailand and Japan). I often spend the night with my other children as well.
What I've Learned
What I have learned is that every single time I leave my home, I need two things – a Procedure and a Checklist.
My checklist includes everything I need to pack, from my camera, phone, and chargers to my nebulizer, inhalers, and medications. I check the list before I leave, and then again when I pack to return. Preparation is key if you want to remember to bring home with you everything your brought on your vacation.
The procedure I follow sounds complicated, but it isn't. It includes before-trip activity, during-trip activity, and packing-to-go-home activity:
1) Get list of necessary items (I've had the same list for years).
2) Pack everything on the list.
1) Keep all items together in a designated space.
2) Keep a bag for dirty laundry.
3) Return everything, including toiletries, to designated space after each use.
Packing To Go Home
1) Check the list while returning items to suitcases.
2) Check designated spaces for jewelry, meds, etc.
3) If you have children, check behind the couch and under the bed for missing items.
Here is the never-changing checklist I keep inside my day planner (the number of clothing items changes according to how many days I'll be gone, but even if I'm gone for more than a week the number never exceeds 7, because I can always use laundry facilities). For the sake of this list I'll include numbers:
Cell phone with charger
Boarding Pass and Itinerary
(You may need a Passport or Visa)
Camera with charger
Nebulizer with all parts
Enough meds to carry me through
Bag of Personal Items
2 pr. Shoes/2 pr. Sandals
2 Jackets (or hoodies)
5 Short-Sleeve Shirts
5 No-Sleeve Shirts
5 Long-Sleeve Shirts
4 Pants/4 Shorts
7 Socks/7 Underwear
Laptop with cables and chargers
List of Bills and due dates (in case any are due while I'm gone)
If you're taking family members with you, you'll need a checklist for each member of your family. Baby's favorite toy or blanket, bottles, diapers, etc., children's iPods and other electronic devices, books, homework, etc., should all make the checklist. And on your trip back, you'll have to add souvenirs to your list if you purchased them while you were on vacation (bring an extra empty suitcase if necessary).
Keep Things Together
Keeping things together at all times saves time throughout the vacation, whether the vacation is for me or for my grandchildren. I've noticed that when grandchildren spend the night with me, the first thing they do is scatter themselves and their things everywhere. Depending on how many grandchildren I have spending the night, I try to keep things organized and I designate a space for all their things.
Despite careful planning, though, I'll find an occasional sock after they leave because kids don't really think about the consequences of throwing socks behind a couch or under a bed. Once I found a sock in the toy room inside a box of blocks.
What Happens When You Don't Prepare
Having traveled so often, my checklist remains the same no matter what the season. The reason I never change my checklist is because I learned from my own mistakes. Once I left Chicago for California and brought along a leather jacket because it was cool in Chicago. On my return trip, I realized I had left the jacket in California. When I got to Chicago, I had to purchase a sweatshirt from one of the airport shops just to get to the bus stop because the weather had become wintry (common for Midwest weather to change from hot to cold or cold to hot within a week).
Another time I left my camera charger in Virginia – once – I've never lost a camera or a charger since. (For a unique perspective on how the charger eventually and surprisingly surfaced, please read Synchronicity and Coincidence.)
I also keep a "personal items" bag packed at all times. It includes everything I use each morning and each night – face wash, moisturizer, body lotion, etc. That way, when I'm ready to pack, I just throw the whole bag into a suitcase.
Making a list and checking it twice is absolutely necessary if you never want to leave anything behind. And if you're sending kids to Grandma's and Grandpa's house, have a list ready for them so they won't lose anything. After the jacket and charger incidents, I never wanted to repeat those mistakes and I never have.
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